The Irony of Mr. Vernon

I’ve always been a big fan of the 1985 John Hughes film The Breakfast Club. I think my enjoyment of the film largely comes from the fact that I was a high school student in 1985, and the sensibilities speak to my connection to that important time in my life. That said, the odd thing about my enjoyment of the film is its increasing relevance to me as an educator. The truths of the film have only seemed to grow more relevant over time and there’s an almost prophetic quality to the themes of alienation, self-discovery, and the de-institutionalization of learning that make it a timeless classic.

The scene I’m going to post below comes at the start of the film, when the main characters are seated in rows of desks in their school facing a full Saturday of “detention.” School as a prison. Hmmm…what would be all that different about the experience on Saturday than during the rest of the week? The principal tells the students that they’re not to talk, not to move, not to sleep, and they have to write an essay of 1000 words on who they think they are…

Of course, the irony of the film is that the students learn more about who they are by interacting with one another and blatantly flaunting their disobedience to the structure throughout the day. Ironic isn’t it Mr. Vernon? By experiencing school on their own terms, rather than via your imposed authority, the students create an anti-environment within the structure to escape and command it. Plus…it all happens via a great 80s soundtrack.


About mikeplugh

Media Ecology General Semantics Baseball Japan Fordham University
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